We filled Roulette to capacity for last Saturday’s IGIGI concert. Representatives of three generations of my family were there! The generation gap was definitely in attendance, too; Lainie’s Tongue of Thorns, a raucous four-axe homage to the Velvet Underground, provoked some ear-plugging by the over-50 crowd, while the 20-somethings grooved contentedly in their seats. It made me wonder how many composers’ parents listen to their progeny’s music on a regular basis; how many could even stand to? I loaded up some of my music on my Mom’s new iPod, so I’ll have to sneak a look at her play counts.
I think part of the reason for this new-music generation gap is that people my age have no real concept of what “New Music” is, or how to approach it. We’ve grown up exposed to a much wider variety of sounds than our parents, which both desensitizes our ears but also makes them open-minded. Our parents, on the other hand, were the last children to have been brought up with the ideal of the concert hall as Sacred Space, and its confluent Modernist notions of “pure music”. They expect music to operate at several different levels of activity, all at once, all the time: intellectual, narrative, and performative.
From this standpoint, a piece like Jen Stock’s Grainary doesn’t make sense as a concert work, because it creates an atmosphere with spare, repetitive sounds and video rather than a rigorously developed progression of musical “material”. For me, though, it evoked something my old teacher John Halle said in regard to Alvin Lucier’s music: “something that should be boring, but isn’t”. Large-scale mechanical/industrial processes are one of those things, and I think Jen hinted at this potential fascination in Grainary. I always love those terrible segments on the Food Network or the History Channel where they show the mesmerizing insides of a camera-lens factory, or the candy assembly line. Here’s a great photo essay of how Legos are made. I think why I love watching these and why I love listening to repetitive music stem from the same part of my brain.
Lainie’s music continues to enchant me in this regard. Her two new pieces, Tongue of Thorns and Do You? revealed an even stricter minimalist bent than her earlier music. I thought the melodica-clarinet-voice trio in Do You? was particularly cool, and I’m always a sucker for those insanely catchy fractured rhythms, though I think it could have been even better if the instruments were amplified and mixed to ensure proper balance (and boost the volume).
Alex’s new pieces mix his incredibly catholic tastes in surprising, intriguing, often quite funny ways. I actually LOLed during Slightly Less Awkward People, which I don’t do nearly enough of at concerts in general. I played The Last Resort Party Band with my Yale friends and composer-saxophonist Emilia Tamburri, which we recorded the next day— I’m eager to hear it— and then Alex performed his melodica/piano piece Inland himself. I’m really interested in the possibilities of this combination; the toy-like melodica holds up remarkably well.
I’m looking forward to more collaborations with these wonderful composers in the near future… stay tuned. I have lots more updates that might have to wait until next week.